Buy Lines: Since when is competition bad?

Stan Soloway

Using sound-bite rhetoric and deliberate misinformation, opponents of competitive sourcing are simultaneously assaulting the Office of Management and Budget's May 29 revisions to Circular A-76 and engaging in guerrilla campaign tactics to ban competition, agency by agency, through legislation.

As taxpayers, we should be outraged at efforts to shackle agency flexibility and limit even the consideration of all appropriate options available to agencies to enhance their missions and improve their performance. Indeed, even as some members of Congress have described the administration's competitive sourcing goals as "arbitrary," these kinds of legislative restrictions are even more arbitrary and damaging.

The House is considering recommendations from its Appropriations Committee to prohibit competitions at agencies covered by appropriations of the departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The Senate-passed Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill has a prohibition on competition covering a wide range of air traffic control support functions.

Such assaults are likely to continue. Given the protracted and severe budgetary squeeze, a wholesale exclusion on competition at these agencies makes no political, budgetary or management sense.

Competitive sourcing is not about transferring work to the private sector. It is about using a proven management tool to achieve cost and performance improvements.

As is often the case with public-private competitions, both the Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration recently announced that their in-house teams won respective competitions. In both cases, the competition led to opportunities for agency savings and improved performance that almost certainly would not have occurred otherwise.

In fact, a new Navy study confirms again what other studies have repeatedly shown: When competition is present, the Navy's savings have averaged 43 percent. Without significant competition and using so-called strategic sourcing, the savings have averaged only about 14 percent.

Furthermore, a recent survey of government managers found that 90 percent do not believe his or her agency is delivering the high quality and efficient services that its customers and the agencies expect. These are useful perspectives from which to view the legislative battles over competitive sourcing.

Some critics claim that the A-76 revisions impose accountability and competition requirements only on government employees. In fact, the revisions bring to the government the same competitive and accountability requirements already imposed on contractors.

Some claim that the revisions "introduce a new and controversial" methodology, known as best value. In fact, the revisions only extend to a limited subset of public-private competitions the authority to consider both cost and quality factors. This has long been the standard in 98 percent of all government procurement actions.

Still others claim that competitive sourcing represents a pernicious threat to employee pay and benefits. In fact, the General Accounting Office and others have found no evidence to support that claim. Moreover, unions continue to campaign for increased federal pay based on their (likely correct) argument that private-sector employees typically are better compensated than their government counterparts.

Significant savings, improved performance and access to cutting-edge technologies are among the government's most pressing needs. If ever there was a time to promote competition and provide agencies the flexibility to find new ways of executing the government's missions -- particularly those that involve commercial activities -- this is it.

It's up to Congress to make that happen. As final actions are taken on the relevant legislation, it is important that reality take precedence over misinformation and rhetoric.

Stan Soloway is president of the Professional Services Council and previously served as deputy undersecretary of defense. His email is soloway@pscouncil.org.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close
SEARCH
contracts DB

Trending

  • Dive into our Contract Award database

    In an exclusive for WT Insider members, we are collecting all of the contract awards we cover into a database that you can sort by contractor, agency, value and other parameters. You can also download it into a spreadsheet. Read More

  • Is SBA MIA on contractor fraud? Nick Wakeman

    Editor Nick Wakeman explores the puzzle of why SBA has been so silent on the latest contractor fraud scandal when it has been so quick to act in other cases. Read More

Webcasts

  • How Do You Support the Project Lifecycle?

    How do best-in-class project-based companies create and actively mature successful organizations? They find the right mix of people, processes and tools that enable them to effectively manage the project lifecycle. REGISTER for this webinar to hear how properly managing the cycle of capture, bid, accounting, execution, IPM and analysis will allow you to better manage your programs to stay on scope, schedule and budget. Learn More!

  • Sequestration, LPTA and the Top 100

    Join Washington Technology’s Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman as he analyzes the annual Top 100 list and reveals critical insights into how market trends have impacted its composition. You'll learn what movements of individual companies means and how the market overall is being impacted by the current budget environment, how the Top 100 rankings reflect the major trends in the market today and how the biggest companies in the market are adapting to today’s competitive environment. Learn More!